As I've been writing these birthday tribute posts this year, I've realized that most of my favorite memories of the people I love are connected to my mom's battle with breast cancer. It's amazing how such a difficult time in my life was also filled with so many beautiful memories--moments when, as a young child, I realized that I would always be loved and cared for by my immediate and extended family, no matter what the future held. I've always known that my mom's battle with cancer was the defining experience of my life--but it wasn't until I started writing down all of these memories that I've realized just how defining it was for me. I learned at such a young age how important my family was--and even then I realized how lucky I am to have the family that I do. The support we've received over the almost 25 years since my mother's diagnosis is pretty astounding. I am grateful.
Today is my Aunt Dayle's birthday. In those first few years of my mom's battle, when my sisters and I were still very young, Dayle would often take us to swim at the Cherry Creek Reservoir near our house. I remember how exciting it was when she would call to invite us to go with her and her kids. Dayle was so spunky and fun, and her daughters were almost exactly our age. A day at the "beach" with the Westover cousins was sure to be a day of fun and memories!
I know now that Dayle's thoughtful invitations were meant to be more than just fun outings--those days were meant to give my mom a much-needed break in the midst of mothering three little girls while enduring cancer treatments. Dayle gave my sisters and me an extremely fun day out of the house in the sun, and she gave my mom the opportunity to rest.
Dayle does landscaping and gardening professionally, and after my mom passed away, she anonymously arranged for a beautiful garden fountain to be installed by our back porch. It featured a statue of an angel with the words "an angel resides here" painted on the side. We came home from a family vacation and found this lovely tribute to our mother in the garden. We were so touched, and ten years later, the statue is still the centerpiece of the flowerbeds. It is a peaceful reminder that my mother will never be forgotten by those who knew and loved her. Though Dayle never wanted credit for her gift, we did figure out whom it was from, and we are so grateful to her.
The summer after my mom's passing, Dayle planted our gardens and flower pots because my mom always loved to do that. Sally's home without flowers in the springtime would not feel like Sally's home! Of course the flowers flourished that summer due to Dayle's green thumb, and it was a comfort to our family to see those beautiful blossoms and remember our mom.
The following year, Dayle and her family moved to Florida, and then she and my uncle divorced, so I haven't seen Dayle in about eight years. I have so many fond memories of her from my childhood, and I am so grateful for the service she gave to my family. As I've gotten older, I've realized just how much that service must have meant to my mother. I am so touched when I think of the ways that people reached out to support my mom when I was young. Happy birthday to a wonderful aunt! I love you, Aunt Dayle!